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Promotional film made for the City of Detroit, an unsuccessful bidder for the Olympic Games. With views of city highways, automobile manufacturing, a diverse population, and social activities, all shot prior to the city's economic decline.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor: Detroit (City of)
Audio/Visual: Sd, C
Keywords: Detroit, Michigan; City planning; Race relations
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: Beautiful Musical Score!
I must say, I absolutely love and adore the City of Detroit; especially 40s, 50s, and 60s era Detroit. Seeing this film could honestly make me tear up because there was once a day, not so long ago, where the Motor City was still rolling. Great video. I love the background music! Especially from 1:49-6:15. It was composed by Samuel Benavie. Absolutely love his work...
Difficult to recognize.
Subject: Interesting flick
Sort of ironic that this was made just as Detroit was ready to start its downslide. Seems as if the producers were completely unaware of the threat from Japan.
Subject: Big City Safe City 1965
That year at the age of 13 1/2 I began taking 3 city buses (not school busses) each way to a magnet (public) high school downtown with 37 curriculae....in the red light district, no less; across from the Masonic Temple and after school hung out downtown having ciggies and coffee with my friends and walked though the largest department store in the world to get my bus home. I think once, somebody got roughed up for their bus fare. But heck, I cant think of a city that size you could do that today except maybe somewhere in Europe or Canada - or maybe Singapore. There are some interesting factoids in this film including the highest per capita income of any large American city...and those true statements about its incredible economic history prior to 1970. What has happened to that city was obviously an "outside" job by the likes of which I think some people in this country are starting to become familiar with. And for the record, all prior events considered.....it was Hizzoner's "special" case of bussing to be conducted ONLY within the city limits that drove the productive people out for good. And the racist went to Washington personally and insisted on having it that way. I never have and never will forgive black so-called "leadership" for what they did to that city. Biggest scene of destruction I've ever seen.
Subject: A Dying City
Oh, Brigadoon don't get your pants in a bunch. Are you against free speech? You want to see something truly awful? Go here,
Whenever one party has entrenched control for generations, with a hefty dose of racism on all sides, you get Beirut, no, I'm sorry, Detroit.
Subject: Response to Kerryman comments
Mr. Kerryman: your racism is disgusting, ignorant, and sad. I urge the moderators of this site to remove your comments so that other viewers of this video don't have to read them.
Mr. Kerryman -
Subject: Mayor Jerry's Detroit
At the time of this video, Mayor Cavanagh was preparing to hand me my diploma from high school (he just didn't know it yet). A year or two earlier, and I was able -- as a ten-year-old -- to take the bus to the Fisher Building to see the orthodontist and back home again. No hassles, no assaults, no hoboes. Try that today (especially as a white man).
What is ironic to me is the fact that blacks rioted in Detroit (in 1967) only after high-paying jobs at the car factories were becoming available.
The destruction of the city has many causes, to be sure, but until the Black community stands up and takes responsibility for fatherless families and all the social ills that attend, we're spitting into the wind.
Sure, our neighborhood was "block busted," and, sure, you could say that fleeing the city had only one cause -- racial. But, who among you wouldn't take action to preserve family wealth if you were convincingly told that your most important asset (your family home) was about to become worthless?
The steely-eyed, amoral Black social structure that rules the streets of Detroit will assure that the city wallows in misery for another hundred years.
My whole life was wrecked by the destruction of my neighborhood. My life was almost taken by street thugs. My family is shocked when I tell them I'm from Detroit.
Subject: ....And Just Who....
....Was Responsible For The Degradation Of That City..?..Even Berry Gordy Took The Money & Ran..!..Case Closed..!
Subject: Propaganda on the move
Great example of good old American propaganda for the masses,proudly promoted by the Industrial and Corporate elite for progress, yeah right! Their progress,their agenda, their future!
Boy, times have changed....um..or have they ?
Ron Raygun -
Subject: A Reputation as a "Rough Town"
The film showed some nice parts of town, and the usual propaganda from a big city mayor. Dating back to the 1920's, the Purple Gang placed Detroit as an ugly place to live. The Detroit Police never seemed to be able to stamp out hostile organized crime as well as a high crime rate throughout the most of the 20th Century. It's reputation for shootings, gang activity, murder, and other vices could never be negated by this film. And since the film was made in 1965, the worst was to come shortly thereafter. People I talked to in the early '60's all told me that Detroit is a "rough town", and one of the most violent cities of the period. There is no way that producing a film like this would convince anyone for a much less convention. And when the whites left for the suburbs and the Negroes started electing Negroes, it was all over. Today it is a total burned out slum that I would be afraid to fly over.
Subject: Next time, get a better narrator!
No wonder Detroit didn't get the Olympics. Maybe they should blame Jam Handy for being passed over. After seeing this piece, I'm sure the Olympic committee was nodding off.
While Jerome Cavanaugh was not a bad guy, narration was not his strong suit. I don't know if it was his idea to narrate, or if that came from Handy.
Great shots of Detroit during the mid-Sixties, though, before everything went to hell.
Subject: A Scribble Folly
Interestingly you mention "white history" as a culprit......What about "BET" television? Your tone and being specific to solely one side is equally as amusing and does nothing but contribute to what you criticize.
Subject: A Sad State of Affairs
Too bad the glorious promise all went south after the riots. The perpetrators forced good people out,...Kwame Kirkpatrick is the result.
Subject: Funny Film
It's a real pity that all that culture is now wasted on a populace that considers a bucket of chicken, a couple of 40's and a Snoop Dog CD "high art".
Subject: The Folly of Urban Planning
Dear Mr or Ms. Smythology
I had a quick visit to the amusing link you provided in your review (white-history), it amazes me that despite the mountains of evidence provided by science to the contrary, there are still those who insist on separating humanity into self-emerged "races" rather than recognizing the fact that we all share a common ancestry, directly traceable to the African continent.
Whatever differences we have are a result of cultural development that occurred in separation, this isolation has virtually disappeared in the age of globalization, but it will take some time before we recognize our common humanity and hopefully transcend our tribal nature, sites like "white-history" do nothing to contribute to this goal that is truly central to our survival.
The film was quite good as well...more well intentioned mis-steps that we can all learn from.
Subject: "Modernity," "Progress," and Other Disastrous Concepts
"A new renaissance is changing the face of the city. This renaissance, seen everywhere, is the direct result of considered planning ... [planners are] creating a new concept of urban efficiency." -Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh
This video provides a neat and concise overview of the catastrophically destructive city-planning of the postwar era, visited not only upon Detroit but upon almost every major American city. This vision for planning centered around several key components: the subservience of the city to the needs of the automobile, the rejection of fine-grained urban fabric in favor of massive glass-and-concrete towers set in open areas, and above all, a worshipful attitude toward "progress" and "modernity" which entailed a complete rejection of the ideas, traditions and styles of the past. Driving all the destruction was a quasi-totalitarian planning board salivating over the prospect of federal highway and urban renewal funds.
It is this ideology that is responsible for this 1965 video, in which the filmmakers happily focus the camera on massive highway interchanges and profoundly unattractive architecture which the Mayor tells us -- with apparent sincerity -- is "creating a new image of beauty and function." Notably absent are any images of Detroit's historic, pre-war neighborhoods. The only exception is the Disneyland-like tourist village, confirming the impression that in this "modern" Detroit, the only permissible remnants of the past will be those kept as museum pieces.
Tall new office towers are praised simply for being tall and new, as though that alone was sufficient justification for their existence. In the new Detroit, the mayor boasts, children will be sent to "the most modern of schools," as though the grim, dark and depressing one-story schoolhouse shown in the video will somehow help to educate Detroit's children in a way that the distinguished neo-Gothic, Classical and Romanesque revival buildings of the pre-1945 period could not.
Also notable is the reference to the so-called slums: as the Mayor puts it, "the ugliness, the poverty and sickness of slums." These defects have been remedied, the Mayor assures us, by clearing the slums. Now, certainly it should have occurred to someone in city government that a building cannot be poor, nor can a building really be sick -- these are characteristics of people, not structures. The only remaining characteristic, ugliness, is rather subjective whether applied to people or architecture, and cannot be grounds for condemnation for a building in any event. Yet the Major proclaims all these problems magically solved by the demolition of entire "slum" neighborhoods.
But enough. The video is a catalogue of urban failure, delivered in a naive and optimistic tone that seems almost incredible today (I will not even touch the racial angle, which others have talked about). The damage done by the planners alone will take decades to undo. But for now, visit the web page of Wayne State University, which appears in the video. Their homepage features students not in front of the 1960s-era buildings from the film, but rather a handsome brick and limestone hall from the early 20th century. Appreciation for the architecture and planning of the past, which this country so inexcusably and callously discarded in the 1950s and 1960s, has at last returned and is helping to reinvigorate inner-city neighborhoods through private renovation and reinvestment of historic structures, rather than demolition and destruction. Meanwhile, videos like this should be required viewing for all urban planning students -- as a lesson in the dangers of hubris, and the importance of humility.
Subject: The beginning of the end.
This film only interested me for comparative reasons. But it also gives me a sense of nostalgic pathos - as do most of the other historical documentaries on what American cities used to be like.
And Frequency, the fact that disgusting white elites decided to level certain neighborhoods barely gives reason to the dystopian state that Detroit has turned itself into. And I'm not ashamed to say this is only due to the steady influx of the black population. To this day, white homes get bulldozed as well (because of renewal programs and newly legislated zoning laws) but I've yet to see their response by means of rioting and violence.
This is just the icing on the cake. You can read more about it here:
Also, here is an interesting "photographic essay" on Detroit's ruins:
Paul Wicks -
Subject: I Knew the Writer
My father worked for Jam Handy, in Detroit, and was a friend of Bob Casemore, who is credited as the script writer for this film. It's interesting to note that my father and Bob Casemore were polar opposites, in their political views. Bob Casemore, (like me, curiously enough) represented the liberal perspective. I can attest to the genuine love he had for Detroit, and *all* it's people.
Three years later, when the riots and National Guard response changed our perceptions of Detroit, our naiveté had gone missing.
The aguments about what percentage of the population was white or black goes nowhere until you notice that these numbers change radically in a matter of a few months. Most of those who could afford to, moved to a nearby suburb. It's not that this wasn't already a trend for the prior decade, but there was a... punctuated equilibrium in 1967.
If you'd looked at the various populations in the Detroit metropolitan areas, you'll see all the same people, in the same ratios, just living further apart.
By 1978, I'd moved back into detroit, which was still devistated and had a little further to fall, at that point. But it was cheap, convenient, and multicultural. I was living a somewhat tarnished version of Bob Casemore's dream for Detroiters.
Bottom line: This film is not so much a white-wash, as it is the hopeful world-view of a well meaning and good-hearted writer. It just sounds suspect, when spoken by Detroit's Mayor, Jerry Cavenough. Another friend of my father's, Loren Estleman, wrote a book about Detroit, Mayor Cavenuagh, and this period of time called Stress. See: http://www.twbookmark.com/books/79/0446403679/
Subject: Review and response
This is a fascinating piece for a number of reasons. Not the least reason is the effort of the mayor and filmmakers to put the best face on a city *already* drowning in racial tension (just how long can a city confine its black people to the worst neighborhoods?) as well as economic and population decline--nearly 300,000 people less lived in Detroit in 1965 than did in 1950. We must remember that the postwar boom for Detroit lasted less than a decade--Packard, Studebaker and Hudson all folded in the recession of the mid-1950s. Interstate highway construction combined with the politics of race to lead whites with means to begin to depart for the suburbs immediately after the second world war. Sugrue does a magnificent job in his book "The Origins of the Urban Crisis" to disprove the commonly held view that the city's decline began with the rebellion of 1967. Clearly, this is a city already declining at the time of filming.
That said, Slang, I was appalled at your comment of "accurate". I did not take an official count, but it appeared that roughly one out of ten participants in the film were non-white. Most often, these were black people filmed walking in crowds. Detroit was to become a majority black city by the early 1970s, but it's proportion of blacks had already swelled to 35% by 1965, (44% just 5 years later) far higher than the proportion of blacks shown in the film. Therefore, the film is *far* from an accurate portrayal of the population of the city. As for the "distain" that you mention, it's clear that you are disdainful of Detroit in it's current vestige and not disdainful of 1965 Detroit. I won't speculate on the reasons for your opinion, but I would point out that the behavior of white elites (both locally and nationally) in the 1950s and 1960s was indeed disgusting. Detroit's most notable example was the destruction of Paradise Valley by highway construction, "urban renewal", and other projects sold to well-meaning ignorant liberals by venemous racists. One such liberal, the mayor, mentions the "condeming and clearing" of a neighborhood for construction of the DMC in the film. The ignorant might ask, "Gee whiz, why can't those blacks stay in their neighborhoods?" Oh yeah! The government bulldozed their houses and businesses!
Again, the piece is fascinating, but it is best watched with "accurate" knowledge of Detroit's history.
Subject: Remember the city, date....
Spuzz this was filmed in 1965 and accurate. It was not a black dominated populous when filmed. Not curious, accurate.
DSKruse I think you are letting your distain for the Detroit of today cloud your memory of Detroit then.
Fantasic movie, real treat.
Subject: Detroit: It's many secrets..
In this curious film, dating to 1965, Detroit is shown to be the cosmopolitan center of the universe, yet burying it's many secrets in a whirlwind of curious information. Narrated (badly) by the mayor at the time, we are introduced to him as he's sitting at his desk, seriously figuring out what fo do with his hands as he's talking. He narrates the piece so blandly and boringly that it's hard to get caught up into what he is saying. May aspects of the city is covered, hammering down time and time again how 'modern' it is and the 'newness' of everything. Also covered, it's implication that it's a city of great racial and melting pot harmony, while it's great curiousity is, even though Detroit has one of the most highest density of black people in the country, yet there's not a black person to be found in the film. What kind of harmony is that?
Subject: Not quite the Detroit I remembered...
Boy, aren't we glad that the 1968 Olympics were not held in Detroit, especially after the riots of '67?! I can just picture those National Guard helicopters hovering overhead while shielded cops with attack dogs and fire hoses lined up around each of the sporting venues. And if the sculling events were held on the Rouge River, the contestants would have to navigate around the beer cans, dead carp, and sewage spewed out by the factories and mills. I always felt sorry for the people of Windsor, who typically were downwind from the polluting factories. Detroit was "a city on the move" at that time, all right...the working middle class was moving to the suburbs to escape their run-down neighborhoods. And with all due respect to Mayor Cavanagh, relations between the racial and ethnic groups was deplorable during those years. Still, it was fun to see pictures of the town of my youth. Thanks for making it available!